Open Thread

This is our monthly place to discuss relevant topics that have not appeared in recent posts.

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  • Jared

    Robin–a question that I had the other day: we have art museums, natural science museums, museums to particular sports (Football, Baseball) or activities (Spy Museum; Crime and Punishment). There are history museums–often natural history, though. But there are no or few social science museums. Why do you suppose that is? Is it merely that we believe that there are truths in these other fields or on these other topics, but not in the social sciences?

    Or should I just start thinking of the “American History Museum” as the “American Political and Economic History Museum”?

    • Museums are mainly about displaying physical items with important symbolic associations. Most academic fields don’t have associated museums because they don’t have much in the way of such physical items.

  • JW Ogden

    MOOC’s schooling and CLEPing classes.

    If college was about imparting useful skills and knowledge wouldn’t MOOC’s enable students to CLEP more classes.

  • consider

    Last month you mentioned Hugh Everett’s many worlds theory in a post, and I noticed that you had written about it. According to David Deutsch, fewer than ten percent of theoretical physicists accept this theory, but he laughed, “Yet we are correct!”
    You once said that if you are not an expert in a field the reasonable thing to do is look at the consensus. Would you agree with the consensus that Everett was wrong? Are you enough of an expert to move away from the consensus?

    – signed, consider

    • I’ve heard very different stats on the fraction of opinion. But in any case I am indeed enough of an expert on this subject.

      • consider

        Thanks for the response. It was a sincere question. I have an undergrad physics degree, am fascinated by Everett’s interpretation since I had some major problems with the Copenhagen model and the need for an observer that he had but didn’t even know who he was when I took quantum mechanics in 1988. Everyone knew Wheeler…Not sure if he was correct either. Since I’m not an expert, I guess for now I have to go against Everett’s Many Worlds interpretation, although I appreciate one physicist who said “It is the least crazy”

      • Since I’m not an expert, I guess for now I have to go against Everett’s Many Worlds interpretation

        My position is that forming an independent opinion about something is often essential to deliberation and learning. The important thing is not to believe your opinion. (See “Explaining deliberation” – )

      • Have you encountered this theoretical physicist–Gerard ’t Hooft:

        (Scroll down to or search for subtitle “Fundamental aspects of quantum physics, and their implications for (super) string theory”)

        Gerard ’t Hooft is a Nobel Prize winning physicist. His theory is surely to be preferred metaphysically if he can do what it claims:

        “I have mathematically sound equations that show how classical models generate quantum mechanics. It’s not fake quantum mechanics, with “pilot wave functions” or other such nonsense; it’s the real thing. End of argument.”

    • Marc Geddes

      Most physicists don’t think about it, just using QM as a tool for calculation (I was a physics student at Auckland University).

      But if you are looking for a concrete realist picture of what is going on, then if MWI were wrong, it’s hard to see how you could avoid violations of some important principles of physics, such as locality. On this basis I would rate MWI the best.

      But I don’t MWI is a ‘slam dunk’. The Bohm interpretation also provides a simple, elegant realist picture. And recently I’ve been intrigued by a new type of transactional interpretation, whereby, wormholes/backward causality are viewed as equivalent to quantum effects.

  • Matt


    Have you been following Glen Weyl and Eric Posner’s recent work on quadratic voting in corporate governance, and possibly public policy as well? Seems like it is being marketed as a (potential) competitor to prediction markets. Would be curious to hear your thoughts. Here are some sources:

  • Steven Earl Salmony

    “What’s wrong? Everybody on Earth is in denial about our biggest problem … population growth. Too many new babies, a net of 75 million a year. And we’re all closet deniers — leaders, investors, billionaires, the 99%, everybody. Yes, even Bill McKibben’s global team. The U.N.’s 2,000 scientists know overpopulation is Earth’s only real problem.
    Get it? Earth has only one real problem, there’s the one main dependent variable in the scientific equation. But we refuse to focus on it. So, yes, even scientists are science deniers too. They know population growth is the killer issue, but are avoiding it too. Thousands of scientists have brilliant technical solutions to reducing the impact of global warming. But avoid the root cause. They keep solving the dependent variables in their climate-change science equation. But population growth is the cause of the Earth’s problem, not the result.” Paul Farrell

    • Silent Cal
    • IMASBA

      Global population growth is slowing down and the world population will most likely reach a maximum of 8-11 billion before the year 2100. Contrary to popular belief we’re not like locusts: preventive population control was practised by all hunter gatherer tribes prior to the switch to agriculture and even today people admit to preferring small families once you free them from religions that teach “go forth and multiply”.

  • Tim Tyler

    Perhaps consider reviewing:

    “Michael Sandel: Why we shouldn’t trust markets with our civic life.”

  • Marc Geddes

    Good Google Halloween Witch doodle. If you click on the right two ingredients, a green ghost will destroy the world!